Mark Twain once said, "People say when they get to heaven, theyll fly around from cloud to cloud playing a harp; but I dont see too many people trying to learn how to fly or too many taking harp lessons to get ready for the event."
Many believers say they want to serve God and obey his word, but how many are reading the Bible in order to learn how?
The Bible is not just one big book, but actually a collection of 66 smaller books written over a period of at least 1600 years by about 40 different authors. Everything they wrote was inspired by God.
Here are what some famous people have said about the Bible. Abraham Lincoln wrote,
"I believe the Bible is the best gift God has ever given to man. All the good from the Saviour of the world is communicated to us through this book." George Washington said, "It is impossible to rightly govern the world without God and the Bible."
Heres what the philosopher Immanuel Kant had to say, which you will probably never hear quoted in any philosophy class, "The existence of the Bible, as a book for the people, is the greatest benefit which the human race has ever experienced. Every attempt to belittle it is a crime against humanity."
In 1839 Alexander Campbell wrote, "The Bible is to the intellectual and moral world of man what the sun is to the planets in our system,the fountain and source of light and life, spiritual and eternal. ... The Bible, or the Old and New Testaments, in Hebrew and Greek, contains a full and perfect revelation of God and his will, adapted to man as he now is. It speaks of man as he was, and also as he will hereafter be: but it dwells on man as he is, and as he ought to be...."
How Accurate Is the Bible?
The laws in the Bible concerning diet, health, cleanliness, and quarantine are 20th Century health science ideas, but they were written 3,400 years ago!
Archeology has proven the truth of the Bible. Thompson Chain Reference Bible lists no fewer than 130 archeological discoveries which confirm the Biblical account.
There are over 300 predictions in the Old Testament concerning the first coming of the Messiah. These were all fulfilled in Christ.
Many of the statements in the Bible concerning science and astronomy have only become accepted by science in the past few centuries, and yet they were written in the Bible thousands of years ago!
Aristotle is credited with being the Father of Science about 340 B.C. and yet as Will Durant writes, "Aristotles astronomy is a tissue of childish romance." Compare this to Moses astronomy written in 1400 B.C. Some ancient observers believed the moon to be greater than the sun because at times it appears bigger. They accounted for its lack of heat and dim light by assuming it was much farther away than the sun. But Moses in about 1400 B.C. had no such problems. Genesis 1:16 tells us, "Then God made two great lights: the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night. He made the stars also." He declares the sun the greater light. Notice also he didnt call it the greatest light. There are many stars far bigger than the sun, although they are mere pinpoints in our night sky.
Up to only a few centuries ago it was believed that the world was flat, but Isaiah about 750 B.C. wrote in Isaiah 40:22, "It is He who sits above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers, who stretches out the heavens like a curtain, and spreads them out like a tent to dwell in."
Hipparchus, the originator of Greek astronomy, counted a total of 1080 stars about 140 B.C. and proposed that this was the total of all the stars in the universe. This count was still believed to be accurate about 300 years later when Ptolemy put forth his famous planetary theory. We now know that there are at least 100 septillion stars. Thats 1026. But about 600 B.C., 450 years before Hipparchus, this is what Jeremiah wrote in Jeremiah 33:22 (NIV), "I will make the descendants of David my servant and the Levites who minister before me as countless as the stars of the sky and as measureless as the sand on the seashore."
We think of stars as fixed, but in fact they are moving away from each other ever so slowly. For example the two stars at the opposite ends of the Great Dipper are moving in one direction, while all the other stars of the Dipper are moving together in the opposite direction. In the distant future there will no longer be a Great Dipper. Job wrote in Job 38:31 which was written about 1700 B.C., "Can you bind the cluster of the Pleiades, or loose the belt of Orion?" We now know that Pleiades and Orion are true star groups all the stars in the group are moving together through space. Of course Job knew that almost 4000 years ago
Bleeding a person, removing some of their blood for the purpose of removing the sickness, was a common medical practice. In fact in 1799 George Washington died after being bled for a cold. About 1400 B.C. Moses wrote in Leviticus 17:11, "For the life of the flesh is in the blood...." Today, science has finally caught up with the Bible. Instead of bleeding people, lives are now being saved by blood transfusions.
Up through the 19th Century it was believed by scholars that writing was unknown until well after the time of Moses, but the Bible in Exodus 24:4 states, "And Moses wrote all the words of the LORD...." Scholars scoffed at the Bible as mere legend, but new archaeological discoveries have confirmed that writing was in use in Palestine long before the time of Abraham, about 2000 B.C.
The Bible speaks extensively of a strong and fierce nation called the Hittites. Through the 19th Century skeptics said this proved the Bible was full of fables since no such nation ever existed. But earlier in this century discoveries of Ugaritic writing in Ras Shamra have confirmed the existence of the Hittites. They are now considered to be the third-largest ancient world power.
Babylon on the Euphrates was one of the most amazing cities in the ancient world. Inside its walls, three hundred feet high and eighty feet thick, were such buildings, towers and gardens as no other metropolis of antiquity. Isaiah 13:19-22 written about 750 B.C., at the height of Babylons splendor, prophesied, "And Babylon, the glory of kingdoms, the beauty of the Chaldeans' pride, will be as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah. It will never be inhabited, nor will it be settled from generation to generation; nor will the Arabian pitch tents there, nor will the shepherds make their sheepfolds there. But wild beasts of the desert will lie there, and their houses will be full of owls; Ostriches will dwell there, and wild goats will caper there. The hyenas will howl in their citadels, and jackals in their pleasant palaces. Her time is near to come, and her days will not be prolonged." After about 500 years the once proud city became nothing but a mound of ruins just as Isaiah had prophesied.
Four cities of Galilee: Chorazin, Bethsaida, Capernaum, Tiberias. This is what Jesus said in Matthew 11:21-23, "Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I say to you, it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgment than for you. And you, Capernaem, who are exalted to heaven, will be brought down to Hades; for if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day." Tiberias never had any woe pronounced on it. The location of the first three was long a matter of dispute they had vanished centuries ago. But Tiberias continues to be a flourishing city in our own time.
About 600 B.C. Ezekiel wrote prophecies concerning the twin cities Tyre and Sidon. Ezekiel 26:3-4 tells us Tyre will be destroyed. But Ezekiel 28:21-23 tells us Sidon will have bloodshed, but not be destroyed. 250 years later Alexander the Great destroyed Tyre but spared Sidon. Although Sidon has had a long history of wars and bloodshed, it still stands today.
The Bible was written by men who were guided by the Holy Spirit. God allowed the personality of the writer to show through. He did not dictate the words to the author. But everything these men wrote was inspired by God.
How Important Is the Bible to God?
Matthew 24:35, "Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away."
Isaiah 40:8, "The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever."
Psalm 119:89, "Forever, O LORD, your word is settled in heaven."
What Dose the Bible Claim About Itself?
2 Timothy 3:16, "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness."
2 Peter 1:21, "for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit."
2 Peter 3:15-16, "and account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation-- as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, has written to you, as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures."
We are Encouraged to Study the Scripture
John 5:39 , "Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me."
Acts 17:10-11, "Then the brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea. When they arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews. These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so."
Psalm 119:105, "Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path."
2 Timothy 2:15, "Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth."
Six steps to learning from the Bible PROFIT
How the Bible Can Help Us
Reading and studying the Bible can be profitable to us. It will help us in many areas of our life. Here are four ways that you can benefit from regular reading of Gods word.
1. It will help you become a better Christian
God wrote us an instruction book. It only makes sense that we should spend some time reading it. God created us to live a spiritual life. But in order to do that, we have to learn from his word how he wants us to live our life. The instructions in the Bible will help us to become a better Christian.
We will learn about sin and what things to avoid which will pull our spirit down. We will learn what kind of mental outlook to have. We will be taught patience instead of anger. We will learn about thinking of good things instead of dwelling on the negative. We will learn love and compassion instead of harsh intolerance. We will learn humility instead of arrogance.
We will discover instructions on how to treat our spouse, how to raise our children, how to treat our family, how to act on the job, how to help others, and how to comfort those who are hurting.
We may be surprised to find that God sets high standards for us. And then we find that he provided us a way to be holy and righteous through the price that Jesus paid for us even though we are weak and sinful. We learn how he is there to give us strength in our weakness, give us faith when we doubt, and give us peace when we are in turmoil.
As we read and study the Bible, we discover that God is making us a new creation as he helps us reach our full human potential. The Bible is our Instruction Book.
2. It will teach you about God
A lot of people have different opinions about God. But if you want to learn what God is really like, you will find out in the pages of the Bible. We learn about the Lords mercy and love to us from the Psalms, and we learn about Gods judgement and righteousness from the Prophets. We find out about Gods long-suffering and patience with us from the Gospels, and we learn about his anger against sin from the Books of Moses. We read about God reaching out to save the Gentiles in the Book of Acts, and we read about God judging the Gentile nations in the Book of Revelation.
As we read the Bible, we discover someone who will not fit into a convenient human category but rather, a complex Deity who does things beyond our human understanding. The more we learn about God, the more we realize how weak and inferior we truly are compared to his eternal majesty.
As we learn from scripture, we see one who keeps all the worlds spinning and yet still has time for our smallest problems. As we study the word, we learn of the one who is moving nations and yet still has time for our family. As we read the Bible, we find out about the one who has the vast physical realm of the entire universe under his control, and yet he still has time for our physical problems. As we study scripture, we meet the one whose intellect is so far superior to us that we can barely understand how all his creation functions, and yet he still has time for us when we are suffering mental anguish.
Reading the Bible will teach us who God is, and it will teach us also who we are in relation to him.
3. It will give you direction
How can a book with parts of it that were written from 2000 to 4000 years ago help us with all our complex, modern problems? If you will read the Book of Proverbs, you will discover that man has not changed that much in the past 3000 years. The Bible is just as relevant to us today as it was when it was written. Even though we have attained some intellectual advancements over the past few thousand years, the sad fact is emotionally and spiritually we are just as prone to weakness as the nation of Israel was so many millennia ago.
As we study Gods word, we find direction for our life. Many times the Lord will use his holy word to reveal to us something about our life. It has often happened to me that when I was going through some trial of my faith, I would come upon some portion of the Bible that seemed like it was especially written for me in the very situation that I was in. Those words written so many thousands of years ago would lift up my spirit and give me instructions as to how to get through the difficult time.
One of the reasons I think that reading the Bible helps to give direction to our life is the change in our thinking that occurs. As we read Gods word, our priorities change our focus on what is truly important shifts. As our priorities are replaced by Gods priorities, we discover new directions that the Lord wants to take us.
Gods word is not a hard-to-understand theological treatise. It is a practical, down-to-earth narrative addressing everyday problems of everyday people. There are mighty men of God in the Bible, but we also read about all their weaknesses and failures. How much more does the cry of remorse of Psalm 51 mean to us when we realize what great sins caused David to write this song of repentance!
The more we learn about God and what he wants for us, the easier it becomes to discern Gods direction in our life. This understanding only comes from time spent in his word. It doesnt happen overnight. I have found over the years that the more I learn from scripture, the easier it is to discover Gods direction for me in all areas of my life. I know that you will discover the same thing too.
4. It will comfort you in times of trouble
How many of us have gone through a dark time in our life, and then we found Psalm 23:4, "Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me." As we looked at those words, we sensed Gods presence in the midst of our despair. The Bible can be a great comfort to us. As Peter acknowledged in John 6:68, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life."
Over the years, as I faced sickness in my body, turmoil in my life, or confusion over the future, I have always found comfort from the Bible. Gods word has a soothing effect on our spirit. He has promised us peace, he has promised us joy, he has promised us an abundant life. We receive those things by spending time in prayer and meditation with God. But we learn about those things by spending time in his word.
There have been many times when I was facing a difficulty when God led me to words of comfort in the Bible. I could sense his Spirit ministering to me. He was telling me, See David, I understand what you are going through and I am here to see you through. If you are faithful in your Bible reading, you too will discover that comfort that we can only get as we read from his word.
Basing Our Opinions of the Bible
Many people have opinions about God, but when they read the Bible, they discover they had grave misconceptions of who God is and how he does things. For example, you hear many people say, "A loving God would never send anyone to hell." Or you will hear the opposite: "I have done too many awful things in my life for God to ever love me."
The first group hasnt read Matthew 25:41, "Then He will also say to those on the left hand, `Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels, " and 1 Thessalonians 1:7-8, "and to give you who are troubled rest with us when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ."
The second group hasnt read Isaiah 1:18, "Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool," or 1 John 1:9, "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."
So after reading the Bible, its clear that God shows a balance between the two extreme positions mentioned. He is neither a harsh judge with no mercy, nor is he a merciful God with no justice. We need to base our opinions about God on what the Bible says instead of assuming that God is going to change his nature to match our own definition of who he is. This is why its so important to read and learn from the Bible. The reason why so many false teachings have become so popular is because so few believers really know what the Bible says.
An Overview of the Bible
In the front of your Bible is a Table of Contents which lists the names of all the books in the Bible. The Bible is divided into two sections: the first section which contains three-fourths of the Bible is called the Old Testament, the second section is called the New Testament.
Divisions of the Bible
The New Testament reveals to us Jesus and the plan of salvation. It begins with the book of Matthew and ends with the book of Revelation. It is divided into four general areas:
1st L Lord
The first four books: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John tell us the story of Jesus when he was on this earth.
2nd L Labors
The book of Acts tells us the history of the early church after Jesus' death and resurrection.
3rd L Letters
The letters (from Romans to Jude) are correspondence from early Christian leaders to other churches or individuals.
4th L Last Things
The book of Revelation tells us the future story of the end time when Jesus will come back to this world and reign on earth.
A new believer should always start reading the Bible in the first four books of the New Testament, called the gospels. The book of John is especially easy to understand. Some short letters in the New Testament (also called epistles) which are helpful to new believers are the books of Philippians, James, and 1 John.
The Old Testament reveals to us how God dealt with the nation of Israel. It looks forward to the coming Savior of the world, Jesus. It begins with the book of Genesis and ends with Malachi. It is also divided into four general areas:
1st P Precepts
The first five books (Genesis to Deuteronomy) tell us the beginning of man and the establishment of the nation of Israel with the promise of the Savior of the world coming from this chosen people. It not only contains the early history of Israel, but also the Law of God as revealed through Moses. For example, Exodus chapter 20 records the Ten Commandments.
2nd P Past Events
The next twelve books (Joshua to Esther) are the historical books of the nation of Israel after it became a kingdom in Canaan. Two short books in this section which reveal God's hand on the life of believers, which new Christians may enjoy, are the books of Ruth, and Esther.
3rd P Poetry
The next five books (Job to Song of Solomon) are the books of poetry and wisdom in the Bible. Especially helpful to new believers are the book of Psalms, which was the hymnal or songbook of the nation of Israel; and Proverbs, which contains the sayings and advice of the wisest king Israel had.
4th P Prophets
The last seventeen books (Isaiah to Malachi) are the books of the prophets of Israel who God sent to warn, admonish, and encourage his people toward the end of the history of Israel as a nation. A short book in this section which is good for new believers is the book of Jonah.
Mechanics of the Bible
Here are some hints that will help you find your way around the Bible. There is a handy abbreviation that Christians use to specify verses in the Bible. They list the name of the book first, followed by the chapter number, and then the verse number. For example: John 3:16 means the book of John, chapter 3, verse 16. You can purchase a bookmark from the local Christian Bookstore which contains the names of the books of the Bible. Place this bookmark at Matthew 1:1 and you will always have a handy reference right at the beginning of the New Testament. If you will open the Bible to about the middle, you will discover you are in the book of Psalms. Matthew and Psalms can be two markers to help you navigate through the Bible. To help you find where youre going in the Bible, along the top of every page is given the name of the book and the chapter.
Where to Start Reading the Bible, and Where Not to Start
New Believers should always start with the four gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. John is the easiest for new Christians to follow. After reading the gospels, you may want to look at Acts which contains the history of the early church and the Letters (also called Epistles). In the Old Testament the books of Psalms and Proverbs are good reading for new believers. A new Christian should never start in Genesis (the first book of the Bible), Revelation (the last book of the Bible), or most of the prophetic books (Isaiah to Malachi). Read these books after you have a basic understanding of the teachings of the Bible. You need to have a framework of spiritual understanding to help you figure out what the other books are saying.
This study © 1997 by David Humpal. All Rights Reserved.
Lincoln and Washington: Halleys Bible Handbook pg. 18 © 1965, Zondervan Publishing House
Kant: Halleys Bible Handbook pg. 19 © 1965, Zondervan Publishing House
Campbell: An Alexander Campbell Reader pg. 79 © 1988, CBP Press
John 5:39 from the King James Version
2 Timothy 2:15 from the King James Version